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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Purge is a futuristic sci-fi/horror movie with a horrific idea: Once a year, American citizens are given a 12-hour period in which they can do whatever they want -- including murder -- legally. This supposedly has the effect of reducing crime and lowering unemployment. Violence is strong throughougt the movie, with various beatings, stabbings, and shootings, with lots of dead bodies (including teens) and a fair amount of blood. Language includes a few uses of "f--k" and other strong words, and a teen couple is shown making out and getting a bit hot and heavy. The movie may inspire discussion about human nature, mob mentality, the function of society, consumerism, exploitation, the rich and the poor, and other hot topics.
What's the story?
In the year 2022, the U.S. government has established an annual 12-hour "purge," during which citizens can do whatever they want, legally, even murder. James Sandin (Ethan Hawke) has made tons of money selling security systems to the wealthy, and as the purge begins, he prepares to barricade himself inside with his wife Mary (Lena Headey) and kids, Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and Charlie (Max Burkholder). Unfortunately, Zoey's boyfriend has snuck in just before lockdown, and Charlie tries to help a homeless man by letting him in, too. These small events eventually lead to a terrifying standoff: James must decide whether to sacrifice one man to save himself and his family or fight and face certain death.
Is it any good?
Writer/director James DeMonaco -- who previously wrote the screenplays for The Negotiator and the remake of Assault on Precinct 13 -- adds a new wrinkle to the "home invasion" subgenre in THE PURGE. His idea of the futuristic "purge" brings up many layers of ideas worth discussing. The movie is clever enough to begin asking these questions right away and to make the audience implicit in the discourse. It's impossible to watch and not wonder, "What would I do?" and "Is this right or wrong?" Or, worse, "What if it's a little of both?"
The movie isn't quite as clever at its story and character level. The typical cat-and-mouse chases around the house rely on characters never looking in the right place at the right time, and it becomes clear that they're more important to the movie as representations than as sympathetic characters. Only Rhys Wakefield as a strangely polite, intelligent, grinning invader provides anything of human interest. Regardless, a movie this smart and ambitious isn't easy to dismiss.
Families can talk about...
- Families can talk about The Purge's strong violence. Is the violence necessary to express the movie's point? Could it have been less violent? More violent?
- What do you think of the idea of "the purge"? Would it really lower crime and lessen poverty? What other issues does it bring up?
- What's the movie's perspective on business? The rich and poor? What reaction do you think the filmmakers expect from viewers?
- Should Charlie have let in the man calling for help? Why is his good deed punished?
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.